Skjern follow Motor to play-offsArticle
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GROUP D REVIEW: Both of the group’s teams to contest the Last 16 play-offs secure their spot early with wins in Round 9.

Skjern follow Motor to play-offs

Group D’s two teams to contest the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 Play-offs secured their spot at the weekend, with still one round of group phase matches remaining.

After HC Motor Zaporozhye qualified on Saturday, Skjern Handbold followed them on Sunday, sure to qualify for the play-offs already before the start of their away match against HC Metalurg after HCM Baia Mare lost 29:24 at home to Elverum – but this did not stop Skjern from winning in Skopje.

HCM Baia Mare (ROU) vs Elverum Handball Herrer (NOR) 24:29 (10:19)

Baia Mare could have kept their play-off hope alive for another couple of hours with a win at home against Elverum on Sunday evening, but the Romanian champions could not threaten a win as the Norwegian visitors, who had nothing at stake in the game, steamrolled the home team from the very beginning.

The 2000 spectators in the Sala Polivalenta Lascar Pana were likely shocked as Elverum went from 5:4 to 12:4 at the middle of the first half.

Stellar performances from Morten Nergaard in goal and Petter Överby on the line contributed significantly to Elverum´s impressive first half, which the guests won by nine goals.

Elverum opened the last 30 minutes by taking an astonishing ten goal lead at 20:10, before Baia Mare finally started moving closer.

Five goals in a row from Baia Mare reduced the gap to five goals at 20:15, which gave the home crowd hope again, but it did not take Elverum long to pull away again to 28:21.

At that point, the match was decided, and the 25 Elverum fans, who had taken the long trip to Romania to support their team, could celebrate with their players.

Whilst Petter Överby was the dominant player in the first half, it was left back and former Baia Mare player Steffen Stormo Stegavik’s turn to be the shining star in the second.

Stegavik scored 10 goals altogether, while Överby scored seven – six of which were in the first half.

“This is a great victory for us. We are very happy to play in VELUX EHF Champions League – even more so when we get the points. The team from Baia Mare didn’t played at its best today, but still this is an important victory for us,” says Elverum coach Michael Apelgren.

“When you have a player like [Steffen Stormo] Stegavik in the team, and he plays like he has today, it is very easy to be a coach.”

Baia Mare’s top scorer was Ukrainian left back Vladislav Ostroushko, with nine goals.

Baia Mare_Elverum_465

HC Metalurg (MKD) vs Skjern Handbold (DEN) 24:25 (11:13)

Elverum’s win in Baia Mare meant that Skjern were sure to reach the play-offs before the start of the match in Sports Centre “Boris Trajkovski” Skopje.

The Danish team still have the chance to win the group though, and were obviously determined to pursue that objective from the start of the match in the Macedonian capital.

Metalurg had nothing at stake, as they no longer have a chance to proceed, but that did not stop them from giving the visitors a tough fight.

The first half was equal in the beginning, but towards half-time Skjern gained the upper hand and pulled four goals ahead to 13:9.

By half-time, then home team had reduced the distance to two goals, and a tight second period could be expected.

Skjern got the far better start to the last 30 minutes, leading 17:11 and 18:13, but once again, the hosts came back.

With two minutes and 25 seconds left, the Macedonian side equalised for the first time since 5:5, taking the score to 23:23.

But Metalurg were unable to claim the lead, and it was Skjern who maintained the edge to claim a one-goal win.

Playmaker Lasse Mikkelsen scored six goals for Skjern, who can now look forward to the deciding match for the first place in the group when Motor Zaporozhye visit Skjern Bank Arena next Sunday.

Right back Janko Bozovic was the top-scoring player for Metalurg as with so many times before, contributing eight goals.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cg